Are All Clinicians Natural Horsemen?
by Pat Parelli on Oct 04, 2023
By Pat Parelli
Isn't it interesting how one word can mean so many things? The first time I heard the word clinic, it was in reference to a veterinarian clinic. Then I heard about a medical clinic, and then I heard about a Ray Hunt clinic. I thought, is he a doctor? And not too long after that, many of us in the horse business started to be called “clinicians.”
It sparks the question: are all clinicians natural horsemen?
The first clinic I attended wasn't called a clinic. It was with Monte Foreman who was traveling all around the country, teaching people how to do flying lead changes and slide stops. This was back in 1965.
Years later after my rodeo career, I was over in Australia teaching, and my team and I started discussing how I needed to come up with a name for my program. I didn’t want to call it the Parelli method because there was already a lot of hype over the Jeffery method in Australia. Kel B Jeffery had been trying to share a gentle way with wild horses, and it was much disputed because it was so easy for him, and people would try to imitate instead of emulate him, which did not work for them.
So it was suggested that we call it natural horsemanship because every other word out of my mouth was natural or savvy. I liked the idea, and so Parelli Natural Horsemanship was born.
Next thing you know, horse fairs and clinicians started popping up all over the place. I found it very interesting that the world thought anyone giving a clinic was doing a natural horsemanship clinic.
Just to give you an example of how incorrect that may be, a magazine interviewed me and two other clinicians at the same time. One of the questions they were asked was, how long have you been doing natural horsemanship? The other clinicians responded that they didn’t do natural horsemanship. They did their method. They were very traditional horse trainers. Kick ‘em to go, pull ‘em to stop, use the reins to turn and use specific techniques or tools to get a horse to behave.
Around this same time, roping clinics started popping up all over the place, as well as team roping clinics, ranch roping clinics, barrel racing clinics, cowboy dressage clinics, western dressage clinics, dressage clinics, and so on. So the answer is no, not all clinicians are natural horsemen.
The last few times I did the Road to the Horse competition, I asked them to please not call us clinicians. Those of us participating call ourselves horsemen.
I call my program Natural Horsemanship to teach people how to play with the nature of the horse. But the only other word that can be synonymous with natural is real.
Guess what? This is real horsemanship. This is really helping you keep it natural so you can have a better horse life, and so can your horse.